Notwithstanding the prime minister’s statement, the Vatican has never laid claim to Church properties in Vietnam, and that includes the old compound of the apostolic delegation in Hanoi (pictured) which was owned by the diocese, not by the Vatican, and only lent to the Holy See.
In his interview, the Prime Minister said that his government would not give in to any pressures, including from the Vatican.
“Vietnam is an independent nation that exercises its full sovereignty in accordance with the rule of law. All the activities by Vietnamese citizens and religious organisations must be conducted according to the constitution and the laws of the land. This applies to activities that involved religious properties,” he said.
“I wish to be clear,” he added. “There are no Vatican properties in Vietnam. On Vietnamese soil, all properties belong to this country, its people, its citizens and its state. There are no properties that belong to the religion of a foreign state like the Vatican. Claims made about what is described as ‘Vatican properties’ are without foundations and outside the constitution and the laws of our country.”
Nguyên Tân Dung’s statement is astounding, and not only because the Holy See has never laid any such claim.
First of all, until recently Vietnam’s official press said that the Pope and Vietnam’s bishops were unreservedly in favour of the policies of the Vietnamese government and unhappy with the attitudes of clergymen and lay people involved in the protest movement.
Secondly, Vietnam’s President, Nguyên Minh Triet, during a visit to Italy last November or December, met the Pope, in order to further the process that is expected to lead to the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Vietnam.
Finally, a paper released on 4 September by the Building Ministry (1878 / BXD-QLN) said that the government was planning to review its policy on Church property.
The paper went on to say that, the use of “properties of religious origin” had a certain complexity and called on a number of provinces to prepare a report on their current use.